Bed bugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bed bugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.
Immature bed bugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year. Although they are a nuisance, they do not transmit diseases.
Bed bugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.
Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments. Because bed bugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.
Most bed bug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bed bug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping.
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